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'The Imitation Game' is up to code

Keira Knightley, left and Benedict Cumberbatch appear in

Keira Knightley, left and Benedict Cumberbatch appear in a scene from "The Imitation Game." Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

"The Imitation Game" is an adaptation of the 1983 biography "Alan Turing: The Enigma," and there really isn't a better way to describe the man who solved the Nazi Enigma machine and facilitated the allied victory in World War II.

He's a mysterious figure at the start of this biopic starring Benedict Cumberbatch and he remains so when the lights come up.

The picture, from director Morten Tyldum, isn't after clarity. It unfolds over the course of three distinct periods in Turing's life, chronicling his close relationship with a fellow schoolboy, his stint at the helm of the code-breaking enterprise at Bletchley Park and his arrest some years later on charges of indecency for being gay.

It's a character study before anything, unlike the 2001 picture "Enigma," which chronicled many of the same history-shattering events with a closer focus on the central story.

"The Imitation Game" takes great pains to treat its protagonist as a code in need of deciphering, and Cumberbatch's terrific performance stands out because of the ease with which the actor hints at some deep, tortured feelings powerfully influencing Turing's every waking moment.

The screenplay is just spread too thin, tying itself in knots as it jumps through time in a bid to convey the tragic core of this man's life.

There are at least three interesting movies at play here and a wealth of provocative themes, not the least of which is its consideration of the tragic ways society casually disposed of one of its heroes and what that says about our collective shortsighted nature.

The extraordinary events that led to the cracking of the Enigma code are given their due but virtually shortchanged thanks to the movie's attempt to get to the core of the individual at their center.

It's frustrating but the movie works thanks to Cumberbatch's excellent performance and the eternally powerful image of the tortured hero.

‘The Imitation Game’
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode
Rated PG-13

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